“How is this POSSIBLE?!” roared Oyed as the evacuation to the Mid-realm was completed. “Two of the darkest races, having long turned their backs on the Divine Ones, and yet we STILL lost the Under-realm after they switched sides!” He then fired blasts of energy all around him. Thankfully, no one was around and nothing of value was destroyed, so he could rant as long as necessary. It took a good 5 minutes until he calmed down. “Okay, deep breath. There are still the Manticores and Sphinxes to consider. Now, remember what Tormo told you, the Sphinxes have been discovered and they’re getting aid in regard to the barrier keeping them from any civilized areas. The Manticores still have the key, so you can easily convince them to join you. It will be easier to keep them than the Drows and Shadow Dragons…”
“NINCOMPOOPS! ALL OF YOU!” roared Shefarn’s voice. Oyed stopped and followed the voice to see Shefarn berating a group of people. “YOU DIDN’T PURGE ANY DATA WHATSOEVER?!”
“We didn’t have time!” protested a Robot. “We had to leave immediately!”
“What’s going on?” asked Oyed.
“You know the evacuation of Plunder Island Stronghold?” asked Shefarn.
“…What about it?”
“They didn’t purge any sensitive data, not even our current location!”
“WHAT?!” Oyed was livid! “YOU IDIOTS!”
“Hey, cut us some slack!” protested the Robot.
“I’ll cut off your heads for this!”
“We can’t afford any loss of numbers,” called Dr. Borg’s voice as she approached the group. “They will be punished later, my Lord. For now, we must prepare for our meeting with the Manticores.”
“The sooner we get them and the Sphinxes, the happier I’ll be. I HATE deserts!” growled Oyed.
The Endeavor landed on an island right at the southern exit of the Caltem river, the natural border between Aridu and the Regatim Oasis. “Shalvey, open a secure channel to all Captains and route it to my ready room,” ordered Arsha.
“Aye, Captain,” replied Shalvey. Arsha then went to her ready room and sat at her desk.
“Secure channel is being requested for use,” droned the computer. “Please verify your identity.”
“Royana, Arsha. Serial Number 5-5-4-7-9. Captain of the Endeavor, Registry:CRS-2784. Secure Access code 7-9-7-8-7. Priority Alpha.”
“Verification complete. Awaiting input from recipients.” Arsha needed to only wait a few seconds before all Fleet Commanders signaled they were on the channel. Aldarval then appeared.
“Admiral?! You’re getting involved?! The briefing never mentioned that!”
“I wanted it to be a surprise,” answered Aldarval. “Thank you for organizing this, Arsha. This will make the briefing easier.”
“What’s the situation?” asked a Minotaur woman.
“Everyone, are you all in your ready rooms?” asked Aldarval. Everyone confirmed that they were. “Good. What you’re about to hear does not go beyond your rooms unless necessary. Is that clear?”
“Sounds pretty serious,” muttered Arsha as she joined the others in confirming their understanding.
“It is. Everyone, we’ve finally discovered Dr. Borg’s methods in dismantling Realmfleet. The reason she attacked Realmgate City is because any plans involving Realmgates will give her the means to shut our Realmgate network down and build her own. The reason she wants to shut ours down is that it’s interfering with the construction of her larger Realmgates. She’s trying to connect her personal Realmgates to a larger one but wants it to be under her command. The Drows and Shadow Dragons would have destroyed the original ones for her.”
“Good thing they defected so quickly,” said a male Ice Elf.
“However, there ARE other hibernating races throughout the Mid and Over-realms. Both Mid-realm ones are here on the Northern Continent, one I believe Arsha is familiar with.”
“…The Sphinxes?! They’re working for Oyed?!” yelped Arsha.
“More like working for Manticores while the Manticores work for Oyed.”
“Manticores?!” gulped an elderly Mermaid. “You mean lions with large bat-like wings and a scorpion’s tail?!”
“And they’re walking around the Continent?” asked Arsha.
“I guess we should find some elephants,” joked the Ice Elf.
“Believe it or not, we DID send an elephant. We’re watching it now to see if the legend about Manticores being unable to kill an elephant are true.”
“And what are we doing during this test?” asked the Mermaid.
“We’re going to try and persuade the Sphinxes to ignore the Manticores and join us.”
“…What about getting the Manticores to join us?” asked the Ice Elf.
“Oyed won’t allow that to happen again with any more races,” answered Arsha. “For all his short-sightedness, he’s good at not repeating mistakes.”
“Which is why time is of the essence,” urged Aldarval. “Arsha, the instant our Protectorate Pirate friends get here, I need you to brief them. Have them join you in a strike against the Manticores from the inside. I will lead half the fleet in an external strike. The other half will continue to work on the Sphinx barrier.”
“It STILL isn’t down?” asked Arsha.
“I’m afraid not, despite all our best efforts.”
“Then the Sphinxes’ nerves are probably frayed. They’ll be prime targets for Oyed to recruit. Are you sure you don’t need me there? I’ve had some experience with them.”
“Merrim’s had more experience since you last saw her. No, I need you on the internal strike.”
“Very well. I’ll make sure our late-comers are briefed…and make sure they don’t tear each other’s throats out.”
“Yeah, they AREN’T exactly on good terms, are they?” remarked the Mermaid.
Back at Plunder Island Stronghold, the cleanup was finished. Reb inspected everything and seemed satisfied. “Well, my darlings,” she purred to her new crew, “it looks like my old home became MORE comfortable than ever! I’d say we all made a SPLENDID choice in becoming Privateers, wouldn’t you agree?” The crew agreed. “Well, I’d say it’s about that time. I need some volunteers to go with me and my DARLING husband to the Mid-realm to do what we can to wipe Oyed’s HEINOUS presence off the face of the Realms. I need 50. Who wishes to go?” Everyone raised their hands. “…All 1,800, I see. MOST difficult. Let’s see…” She went through the rows and checked everyone. Those she chose, she gave a gold coin to. Once all 50 coins had been passed out, she and Melgem led everyone onto her new ship, a small Interceptor-class vessel,the Divine Revenge. The ship was a Mechanica, a male by the name of Divre.
“All decks report ready,” reported Divre.
“And so do we,” declared Reb. “Mr. Alndar, set a course for the nearest Under to Mid Realmgate, then get us to our BELOVED Arsha’s position.”
“Course laid in,” reported Mr. Alndar, the Cecaelia Helmsman.
“Take us up.” The Revenge soon left the island and made its way towards a Realmgate.